Getting Local Information and Content

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Richard Lowenberg, John Shelnutt and Pat Hynds

In earlier sessions presenters discussed the importance of getting content on community networks and web sites. Earlier in the day Martha Dexter of the Library of Congress noted that "content is very brings people to the community networks." Changing content also keeps them coming back. The presenters in this session provided some guidance on content sources and discussed some of the difficulties of gathering content.

Richard Lowenberg, the founder and Director of Telluride Institute's InfoZone Program. The InfoZone Program provides people of Southwestern Colorado with local access to the Internet and community networking services (e-mail, conferencing, etc.). Lowenberg pointed out that with the InfoZone CN the citizens of the area provide the content, "they are responsible for content." Passing much of the responsibility for network content over to the network citizens provides one way of CN administrators one way of putting content on to the network. The InfoZone provides the general structure and the citizens of the network provide the content. Content includes information on local tourism, travel and transportation, marketing, sales and service, environment information and research and development information. Some InfoZone content can be found at Click on 'Getting Started.'

Dr. John Shelnutt is a Senior Research Specialist with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) Institute for Economic Advancement. Shelnutt provided a tour of the Institutes web site and discussed some issues content. The source of content for the Institute web site initially came from the information that "was collecting around the institute." Shelnutt and his staff picked through the information and found the content that could be "served up" for local consumption. Content includes statistics of poverty rates, census data, various databases, project and research reports, etc. Shelnutt also discussed the Development Information Network of Arkansas (DINA ). DINA promotes economic development by providing a place for Arkansas chambers of commerce to put up information on their cities and towns. The site is mainly designed to attract outside industry toward communities in Arkansas. Further information can be found by searching on the Institute for Economic Advancement and DINA.

Pat Hynds, the Political Affairs Editor at the Latin America Data Base at the University of New Mexico, defined "community network" differently than many others at the conference. Hynds sees community networks crossing geographical community lines. The Latin America Data Base, for example, is not local to the University of New Mexico, not local to New Mexico, the community is expanding south. The LADB community consists of academics, business people and political activists who have an interests in Latin America regardless of where they are located.

The content for the LADB comes from Spanish language news feeds from all over South America, from news services like UPI, AP and foreign news services. Content also comes from all over the Internet and other specialized networks such as PeaceNet. Content also comes from personal contacts the LADB staff have in South America.

In the discussion that followed their presentations, Shelnutt and Hynds discussed some of the difficulties they faced in gathering content for their community networks. Hynds finds that waiting for the content to reach LADB and the formatting of the content to be time-consuming and difficult. Shelnutt said forming partnerships with the content providers helps tremendously in getting up to date and complete content.

Reported by William Hart.